Written by O'Brian Gunn
Growing up in a small town in Alabama, I always wished that something exciting would happen, something that would take me out of the soul-numbing, small-town existence that made me feel as if life were on an infinite loop. I was immediately reminded of that feeling when I started Girls, which is set in Pennystown, population 63. Besides small-town life, the Luna Brothers’ series also focuses on the age-old theme of gender differences, but with a sci-fi backdrop.
The story starts with an introduction to one of the main characters, Ethan, who is...enjoying some gentleman’s time with a soft porn magazine. From there, we follow Ethan to his job at the local grocery store where he bumbles his way through an attempt at flirting with the new girl in town (she sprinkles the conversation with heavy sexual innuendo, so it’s no wonder that he thinks she’s hitting on him). Later, he meets up with his friend Merv at a bar where they demonstrate a textbook-perfect definition of “incel,” topping things off with a misogynistic tirade against all the women in the bar.
From there, Ethan is 86’d from the bar, and there’s a tremendous BOOM! that’s powerful enough to make it stop raining (cue The X-Files theme). Our Debonair Dan speeds away in his car, which is when he almost hits a naked woman in the middle of the road. Out of the goodness of his dic--eh, heart, Ethan takes the silent femme fatale home and offers her food and shelter. In contrast with his earlier interaction with a woman where she droped sexual hints with her words that didn’t match her true intentions, the mysterious woman practically clubs Ethan over the head with sexual hints with her body that more than match her true intentions.
The two engage in the dance of the two-backed beast, but instead of a Shakespearean play, the act results in Ethan finding several eggs of various sizes in his bathroom...which hatch into several clones of the dark-haired woman. Clones that want to repeat the sexual cycle with any male they can get their hands on while ripping apart any female they can get their hands on. And then there’s the giant, translucent sperm monster in a cornfield and the massive force field surrounding the town that keeps anyone from getting in or out. Again, cue The X-Files theme.
The rest of the graphic novel explores the men and women of Pennystown coming to grips with the fact that they’ve been infiltrated and trapped by a beautiful alien invasion, trying to keep the men from succumbing to their baser desires - and keeping the women and children safe. All the while, tempers flare, more clone eggs are hatched, and the statuses of relationships/marriages are discussed between clone skirmishes reminiscent of Attack on Titan.
One of the things I liked most about Girls is the fact that it’s a character-driven story with text-heavy speech bubbles. That said, the Luna Brothers paid equally close attention to the visuals of their tale, with frames having a cinematic feel with special focus on the background or foreground. The brothers also don’t shy away from a deep examination of the differences in perspective between men and women - not only when it comes to sex, but also when it comes to relationships. While the story does have a gay character, I feel it could’ve been interesting if it had had a gay couple as well (male or female) just to see how that dynamic would have played out.
One thing that I didn’t care much for is the fact that most (not all) of the male characters are unlikeable assholes, while most (not all) of the female characters are treated like shit. I’m not sure if that was intentional, but I felt it cost the story opportunities to have fewer gender stereotypes and be more polished, more multifaceted. Something else I didn’t like was how the characters kept calling the clones “girls” (practically on every page). If I’d just witnessed a gang of clones rip a woman’s hair from her scalp, gnaw through her neck/stomach, beat her senseless, and try to tear her arms and legs off, the last thing I would call them would be “girls.” There were also a few character reactions I felt were mishandled and implausible, such as attempting to grab a loaded gun from someone’s hands and smacking a pregnant woman out of anger.
Going back to the character-driven elements of the story, it was a great shift when the torch was passed (a little inside joke) to the female characters in the middle of the series, especially Nancy. I don’t want to give the impression that none of the male characters have any redeeming qualities, because some of them do - especially Wes and the reverend. My main beef with most of the male characters is the fact that they usually acted like horny adolescents who didn’t give a damn that they were trapped behind a force field with a giant sperm monster next door. I want depth, layers, nuance!
Overall, Girls is worth reading for the excellent horror, survival, and suspense elements alone. The Luna Brothers had some solid ideas, and they stuck more landings than they bumbled, but know that they do leave a few questions unanswered, as you may expect. It would be interesting if they had a follow-up series called Boys where they explored what would happen if the aliens were male rather than female.
Think twice if you ever see a beautiful, dark-haired naked man wandering the streets alone. No matter how enticing he might seem, he just might tear your heart out.
Page Length: 624 pgs hardcover, 608 paperback
Recommend Buy New, Buy Used/On Sale, or Skip: Buy paperback used/on sale (I’d also check with your local library)
Next Up: Too Cool to Be Forgotten, by Alex Robinson, is the story of Andy Wicks, who tries hypnosis to break his smoking habit, only he finds himself blasted back into his high school body with his 40-year old mind. Will he use the opportunity to change more than his smoking habit, or is his life written in cigarette ash-dusted stone? Mortality, compassion, algebra class, family relationships, and a sneaky tear-jerker of an ending await!